Lunga Simelane
3 minute read
27 Jul 2022
10:53 pm

Phalatse denies claims City of Joburg uses ‘spy’ equipment

Lunga Simelane

Phalatse said these were serious allegations, made by councillors and city officials and the accusations of fraud, corruption and even espionage would not be left unchallenged.

Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Mpho Phalatse briefs media following sustained attempts by political parties and rogue City administrators to derail corruption-busting operations. Pictured outside Hillbrow Police Station. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Mayor Mpho Phalatse and speaker of council Vasco da Gama on Wednesday denied claims the City of Joburg owned – or was using – “spy” equipment.

Phalatse spoke today at the Hillbrow police station, where a case was opened against the multiparty government. On Monday, opposition parties threatened to carry out a citizen’s arrest against Phalatse should police fail to arrest her for allegedly concealing evidence related to equipment the city allegedly bought illegally.

The city acquired the controversial spy machine in 2016 when the Democratic Alliance (DA) first came into power. The controversy around the machine also led to the resignation of Shadrack Sibiya, former head of the city’s anticorruption unit, Group Forensic and Investigation Services (GFIS).

Phalatse said these were serious allegations, made by councillors and city officials and the accusations of fraud, corruption and even espionage would not be left unchallenged.

“It must be stated the allegations made against the multiparty government, the speaker of council and the city’s group audit committee must be seen in the context of the work we are doing to rid the city of corruption and those who practice it. This was an attempt to delegitimise and collapse the GFIS,” she said.

Phalatse said an investigation, which she requested on 16 April, confirmed what the multiparty government contended that the city and the GFIS do not own, nor do they use, spy equipment. She said the instruments in question were the technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) equipment.

“The TSCM equipment is utilised for [the] identification of eavesdropping devices and cannot be repurposed to perform any other offensive or collection functions. It is not intelligence-gathering equipment as alleged,” she said.

“The procurement and use of the equipment is in line with the legal security mandate of GFIS, which is to prevent, detect, investigate and resolve all crimes committed against the city relating to fraud and corruption; theft of city assets; vandalism; maladministration – including unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure; breaches of security; cybercrime; illegal connections; as well as hijacked and problem properties.”

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Phalatse said the Security State Agency concluded there was no contravention of its governing legislation as alleged. She said these allegations affected the operations and morale at GFIS.

Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said “endemic corruption is alive and well within the structures of the political spectrum”. He said such acts were used to fight opponents.

“And it is not always a clear independent rule of law or when it is a tool to remove the opponent.”

Phalatse was also accused of meddling in procurement processes. Opposition parties, Al Jama-ah, ANC, African Independent Congress and Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, said they would ensure she was removed through a motion of no confidence if the law fails.

Al Jama-ah councillor Thapelo Amad said the spy machine was a serious issue because the machine had the potential of ruining the political careers of some individuals, especially when used for political reasons.

“We will arrest Mpho and she must point out the other culprits. All of this is happening under her watch,” he said.

However, Phalatse said in order to allow those processes to unfold without prejudice, she asked the public for time before they comment.

“The residents of Joburg will be the first to know from us when formal processes are concluded,” she said.

Da Gama said: “We cannot be spending hours responding to issues, officials know they are casting distractions. This has been completely unnecessary and we now have to take those responsible for misleading and the lies.”